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RE: CSI Guidelines - Drawing Notes?

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-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Gilligan [mailto:mark.gilligan(--nospam--at)] 
Sent: Friday, May 06, 2005 12:49 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: RE: CSI Guidelines - Drawing Notes?

There is a lot of misinformation regarding
specifications and what CSI has published.  Even if
you are opposed to specifications I would recommend
that every engineer read either the CSI Manual of
Practice or the new CSI Project Resource Manual. 
There is a lot of information on such topics as
submittals and construction administration that every
engineer should know.

Master Format is simply a classification scheme for
assigning titles and numbers to the various
specification sections.  Uniformat is a classification
scheme based on building systems that was developed to
facilitate the development and comparison of
estimates.  Neither of them, by themselves, will be of
much help in improving General Notes.

CSI considers the use of General Notes to be poor
practice.  You could prepare specifications and print
them on the drawing but if it involves more than a few
sheets you might ask why not bind them separately.

CSI has given a lot of thought to the issue you raise
and they have come to the conclusion that the best
approach to reducing risk is to produce specifications
in a format that is accepted by the industry.  

General Notes, almost without exception, are less
thorough, poorly organized, and poorly coordinated. 
Thus by using General Notes in place of specifications
you are actually accepting more risks because of the
information that you are omitting.  The arguments for
placing the notes on the drawings, if valid, would
mean that you would have more problems on the large
projects where there are no general notes and where
all of the information is in the specifications.  I
have seen both types of projects and I do not believe
that this is the case.

In conclusion, if you want to control your risks I
recommend you read one of the CSI documents listed
above.  Most of the criticism of specifications and
defense of General Notes comes from people who do not
understand CSI's recommendations.

Mark Gilligan
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I perceive this is a subject near and dear to you.

Although I appreciate much of what you say the fact is that a great many
projects--perhaps "most" in terms of total dollars spent--are "small to
medium," with limited budgets and therefore limited fees available.

The additional time, effort and logistical expense in "publishing"
specifications for such projects is not justified for the amount of fee
involved. In other words, clients are not willing to pay for it, so it
doesn't happen. On larger projects, with far more "divisions" to
coordinate (as well as a number of design professionals), published
specifications make more sense. But the concept is not "scalable" as you
seem to suggest.

Regardless, the fact remains there needs to be a rational means to
communicate project requirements particularly with respect to materials
of installation for projects of limited scope. Not everything can be
shown graphically, of course. The concept of "General Notes" seems to me
to be a good solution, whatever CSI may think.

CSI is typical of most "professional organizations" (and I really can't
think of any that aren't this way, to be honest) in that they focus on
what they know and try to "improve" it to the point where it becomes far
more complicated in its presentment than the casual observer would deem

I applaud CSI's efforts--as I do those of other organizations to which
I've either belonged or supported through purchase of their
publications, etc.--but I submit that to the extent they insist on such
procedures as you describe as being the "only way," they are perhaps due
for a reality check.

What I want to do is employ the "good things" that CSI has brought into
being--the organization of construction project procedures--while
avoiding the needless complications like publishing a "project manual"
for each and every job I do.

I am perhaps overstating what you suggest, but that's how it sounds to
me. Please disavow me of my ignorance, if so. 

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